By on November 19, 2020

General Motors is making moves to offer insurance plans under its data-focused OnStar connected services, which is convenient since the feature comes equipped on all new models the company sells inside North America. Participating customers will be required to allow the automaker to track their driving behavior in real-time. As a perk for handing over their right to privacy, GM will offer discounts to motorists that never exceed the speed limit or accidentally roll through a stop sign.

It’s part of a usage-based insurance trend that’s becoming increasingly common within the industry. It started years ago with customers agreeing to have insurers install tracking devices in their vehicles in exchange for lower rates — assuming they displayed what the agency deemed safe driving practices throughout the duration. But, now that cars are becoming connected to the internet, this can be done automatically with on-board technologies. Consumer advocacy groups are growing worried that insurers will eventually make vehicle tracking mandatory and use it as an excuse to issue predatory fees.

Frankly, so are we.

While asking if customers want to be voluntarily spied on is relatively new for GM, offering insurance to drivers is not. General Motors actually ran insurance programs for decades until it was required to abandon its GMAC financial-services division during its 2009 bankruptcy. That makes this a return to form in some respects, minus the egregious privacy concerns.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the manufacturer will launch a pilot program for the new OnStar Insurance for employees based in Arizona later this week. From there, GM intends to partner with American Family Insurance (to underwrite the policies) and launch the service nationally by the end of 2021. Rates are said to be calculated by the amount of driving a customer does and where that driving is taking place. But other factors (speeding, hard stops, etc) will also be taken into account. The automaker said rates could even be affected by the number of times a driver yanks on the emergency brake or whether or not they kept the tires properly inflated.

“Who knows more about your vehicle than the people who manufactured it?” Andrew Rose, president of GM’s freshly formed OnStar Insurance Services, told the outlet.

From WSJ:

So-called usage-based insurance policies have emerged as one of the more promising uses for connected-car data, analysts say. Insurance companies for years have been offering drivers discounts for good driving, relying on portable devices or smartphone apps to keep tabs on the car’s movements.

Some auto makers provide driving data to insurance companies to help connect their owners to better insurance rates, though few have gone a step further to offer their own plans. Tesla Inc. uses data from its cars to offer insurance to customers. Ford Motor Co. last month said it would give vehicle owners access to cheaper insurance by beaming data from the car to a data exchange used by many carriers to crunch rates.

The number of auto-insurance policies in North America that use digitally-logged data from the car is expected to grow to nearly 50 million in 2023, from about 10.6 million at the end of 2018, according to Berg Insight, a Sweden-based research firm.

It sounds like a dystopian nightmare but a multitude of automakers have been discussing ways to leverage the vast amount of driving data they’re now getting through connected vehicles. General Motors has probably been the company the most vocal about turning data into new sources of revenue, in fact. However, we think this is a bridge too far and look forward to the possibility of covering pitchfork-equipped mobs rallying outside the Detroit Renaissance Center.

[Image: Phil K/Shutterstock]

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50 Comments on “Driving Dystopias: GM Reportedly Rejoining the Insurance Racket With OnStar...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    F*** you GM.

    That is all.

    • 0 avatar
      thegamper

      I will resist this for as long as possible, drive dated vehicles, pay more in insurance, etc.

      Out of curiosity, never having read the privacy policies on the matter, wondering if Onstar is tracking your driving behavior already even without you buying GM insurance. Maybe the insurance companies already know who is a horrible driver if they have a GM or other connected vehicle with telemetry data.

      Incidentally my 15 year old is a student driver and an App tracks his driving. Invariable it tells him that there are multiple instances of “aggressive” acceleration. He drives like an old lady to the point I have to catch myself from asking him to go faster. I don’t think insurance companies or OnStar have a firm grip on “real world” driving. Maybe we can sue them when someone shoots us from road rage claiming the insurance companies made us drive irresponsibly slow.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Even if you don’t pay for any OnStar service, you still get monthly “maintenance reports” emailed to you from your car. So yeah, they are still tracking the car even if you don’t subscribe. But, as I saw on Live Rescue, that stops at OnStar being asked to unlock a hot car with a child trapped inside, to which they reply “there is no OnStar service for this vehicle,” forcing the police to smash the window.

      • 0 avatar
        Ol Shel

        Resistance is futile.

        They’ll break our backs by raising the rates of everyone who refuses until only the wealthy can afford their right to privacy.

        • 0 avatar
          mmreeses

          bingo. Heads they win, tails you lose.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          No, resistance is not futile unless everyone just tosses in the towel. States can mandate that these scum suckers only make such monitoring voluntary. If we all roll over and just accept it, then that is what you will get. This is where your elected representatives can work on your behalf. Its up to us collectively to make sure it is an issue.

          People can also refuse to participate in the GM Onstar nonsense. Even if it means pulling the fuse to the brain or ripping out the antenna. Or, telling the dealer – after taking plenty of the salesperson’s time – that the snitch system killed the deal…money talks.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    With the notable exception of in-town driving, driving the speed limit is patently dangerous behavior almost wherever I drive. Couple that with the “never exceed” language – which ostensibly means 5 mph under the speed limit “just to be sure” – and it’ll be mayhem out there.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    No need for OBD-III since the mfrs simply worked around it. Even red-light cameras will be old school soon, I suppose.

  • avatar
    Cicero

    24/7 tracking of your behavior to save a few bucks on insurance? What a great idea!

    Maybe GM could pull in some additional suckers — uh, customers — if they offer a rebate for drivers who wear a mask in their car full time. I’m sure there’s a lot of crossover between the two markets.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Right, all the cool kids want to catch COVID now, just like the (soon to be unemployed) folks in the White House.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        “(soon to be unemployed) folks in the White House.”

        Dunno about that. A number of states have quite a bit of chaos going on in re the “election.” Refusals to certify election results, recounts showing impossible number of votes cast, etc. I checked on CNN, and unbelievable (LOL) they seem to not have been able to find space to put that info on their site. Isn’t that strange?

        Of course, democrats are telling republicans to “suck it up” — like they did in 2016 when Trump won? They have zero room to criticize in that department.

        Back on topic: I wonder if some people will have accidents because they are afraid to brake or accelerate hard when necessary to avoid an accident for fear that their insurance rates will go up. Why don’t they just stick a block under each pedal to make it impossible to accelerate or brake “aggressively.” Guess whoever set that up never had to get on an expressway in heavy traffic at one of those ramps with no acceleration lane.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Were Obama and the Democrats p*ssed that Trump won four years ago? Well, duh…yes.

          But Obama nutted up and invited the guy over a week after the election to start the transition process.

          You are really off base here.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Old WRX – Suit after suit is being thrown out because the courts require data, facts, and evidence. Without that, there can be no case. Since the “evidence” is all fabricated Twitter BS it falls flat in court.

          CNN does have the “overage” issue on their website front and center. I am assuming that is what you mean by impossible numbers of votes. Interesting to note that in the Detroit area the overage for Trump in 2016 was four times that of the overage for Biden in 2020. Yet Trump won the state with a far, far, tighter margin. So, yeah, the issue is covered. Consistency and facts matter. The Dictator lost by a “landslide” (trump’s words)

          If Trump gets Republican legislators to undo the will of the people in an authoritarian power grab, We The People have every right to rip the country to shreds. I’m 10000% serious. Because at that point we have no country left.

          • 0 avatar
            Old_WRX

            golden2husky,

            CNN? Oh, help. You guys can believe whatever you want. CNN is ultimately owned by AT&T. There is essentially no such thing as independent media in this country — with the exception of certain internet sites. Somehow I don’t think you or FreedMike would be so gullible as to take announcements from major corporations (like GM, Ford, Tesla, etc., etc.) as gospel, at least not without a healthy skepticism. Then, why, oh, why would you so faithfully accept what major corporations say in their news media outlets? It just doesn’t make sense. Unless you think they run those news media out of some kind of public spirited altruism. Nuff said, the best that we can arrive at, as far as I can see, is we don’t and probably won’t agree on this sort of thing. And, let’s hope that that will always be legal and socially acceptable in this country.

  • avatar
    watersketch

    There is a benefit in this stuff..

    My Dad is retired and drives about 4,000 miles a year got his insurance premium reduced 50% going to one of these tracked devices.

    • 0 avatar
      Funky D

      That is fine as long as it is optional. I fear that it soon (or eventually) won’t be.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      Sign me up with your “dads insurance ” I have a low mileage lease ( 10K miles/year ) I just turned 6K after 13 months, Allstate (your in good hands with ) I feel is ripping me off, not one ticket in over 40 years and no accidents, the only thing that is keeping me from switching is they have me “bundled ” with my house insurance which I only had a few claims in 27 years, one was hail damage the other light break in damage to a door!

    • 0 avatar
      mmreeses

      I bet your dad has a 66%+ lower risk of claims.

      Your dad is getting robbed by only getting a 50% discount.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The Brave New World has arrived. Sure, it’s easy to say that one can just pull the plug on OnStar or any other Internet connection a car will have.

    But the automakers aren’t that dumb. And neither are the insurance companies. Especially when it comes to making money. The automakers will find a way to intertwine systems that make pulling the connection unworkable. And the insurance companies will punish you with higher rates – until you say “Uncle.”

    It’s not the government we need to worry about in this sense. It’s private industry. And – I promise you – most Americans will joyfully go along. As long as it’s convenient.

    • 0 avatar
      tomLU86

      Ughh. Because we don’t already have enough depressing news.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      Elected officials are the only firewall between us and the profiteers.

      If you want them to stand up for you, you have to insist that they eliminate large campaign donations, once and for all.

      If anyone thinks this isn’t the way, they’re wrong. Money corrupts, even when it’s your beloved representatives.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        “Money corrupts, even when it’s your beloved representatives.”

        Driving an old car is really the only solution for now. Unless some form of aftermarket hack becomes available to clean up the data Big Brother is collecting. This snoop-o-mania is getting really creepy.

        Big business pretty much owns the government with all the money they pour into campaign funds, and it gets worse all the time. Don’t forget big business also owns the media.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I’ve always wanted to sign up for one these then see how quickly they would call me after one of my track days.

    And yes ironically all those who worry about “Uncle Sam” getting into their business its the Googles and GMs of the world that are tracking you constantly… yet nobody seems to care.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m of two minds on this. I currently have the doohickey from State Farm that pairs with the phone and it’s onboard accelerometer and sensing equipment. It matches speed limits with the data loaded onto google maps and tracks speeding that way. Per the information online it doesn’t count an “event” unless it’s 8 mph or more above the limit, so I guess it’s erring on the side of allowing for slightly evasive manuevers.

    Phones are already tracking is wherever we go, so it doesn’t feel like we’re divulging more information. Also, according to the agent at State Farm, they have no direct access to the data aside from the score for each drive.

    I still haven’t figured out what counts as an event though because I have been dinged for “excessive acceleration” even when it’s a case of slowing for a red light than turns green and rolling onto the throttle. I’ve also been dinged for applying many beans to enter the freeway. It seems whoever programmed the app doesn’t know how driving works.

    To sum up, an opportunity to save money with data that is already being collected seems like a no-brainer, bit the programming and scoring systems seem a bit opaque.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      Dinged for excessive acceleration? That’s ridiculous. There is no acceleration limit law. If the speed limit is 55 and I get there in 4 seconds and hold at 55, I didn’t break any laws.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I agree. I’ve already taken to trying to see how many points I can get in a given drive. The doohickey also seems to think you’re doomed to crash if you approach a turn at anything greater than a snail’s pace.

        Were one to drive like the darn thing thinks prudent, there would be accidents aplenty. I think after my next renewal I’m sending the dumb thing back. It’s not worth the meager savings.

    • 0 avatar
      craiger

      “Phones are already tracking is wherever we go, so it doesn’t feel like we’re divulging more information.”

      Of course, but an insurance company can’t charge you simply because they observed the phone in your pocket traveling over the speed limit. You could be in another person’s car, for example. Or, you could be flying downhill on your bicycle. You could be in a small aircraft at an altitude low enough to allow your phone to stay connected to the towers.

      For these systems to work, the transmitter has to be installed in the specific car. Also, the insurance company would have to know that it is you who is actually driving during the “event.” So, in fact we would be divulging information to them that they otherwise would not know.

  • avatar
    Funky D

    I am a chronic leadfoot, but I also haven’t had a chargeable accident since 2008 or a ticket of any sort since 2014, nor have I ever injured anyone in 37 years of driving (thank the Good Lord for that!). So how do you take drivers with stellar claims records into account with this kind of system? That’s right you won’t, thus pardon me whilst I fail to participate in this scheme.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I’m in a similar situation – I like to drive relatively fast, and I love to corner. Both things will make you look like a “bad” driver if you have a snitch device. Yet I’ve driven over 700,000 miles to date, have had zero at fault collisions, never struck anything (accidentally that is) and the only claim activity was from being struck at a stop sign and once at a red light. Oh, and a jerk in a parking lot refused to “zipper” and he hit me. Yet, the turtle that leave accidents in their wake as they drive 10 under in the left lane gets the best rates…go figure.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        golden2husky,

        “Yet, the turtle that leave accidents in their wake as they drive 10 under in the left lane gets the best rates…go figure.”

        Yeah, ain’t it great…

        I have the habit of getting on the brake pretty hard whenever it looks like there could be a problem happening ahead of me. Initially I will brake much harder than necessary to stop in the space available. That way if I misjudged I have an extra cushion of space. But, then, with this Brave New World insurance snooping I would get dinged for aggressive braking…..makes no goddamn sense.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    They found out how much Tesla was making on this stuff.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I just got the letter today as a matter of fact. They were asking if I wanted quotes and said I could qualify for a “low miles” discount. The thing is-for various reasons-I have to have a little more extensive insurance than most (Umbrella coverage-high limits, etc) and its very, very time consuming to switch to another insurance company-or to break apart the policies to different companies.

    SO-the letter went right in the trash.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    I’ll happily allow tracking, so long as my insurance is cut in 1/2.
    No 10% nonsense. Otherwise it’s not worth it to me.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    There’s no way I’d sign up for this. If I’d had it during the lockdowns, when I drove on all those deserted roads like a scene from “Gone In Sixty Seconds,” I’d be paying about five grand a month for insurance.

  • avatar
    Old_WRX

    If they want to improve how people’s insurance rates are set, they should get rid of laws that only allow three years of driving record to be taken into account when setting rates.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      …or your credit score, for that matter.

      • 0 avatar
        Old_WRX

        FreedMike,

        “…or your credit score”

        My insurance company says you can give them you’re credit score and it could possibly lower your rate, but can’t raise your rate.

        It just really peeves me that my record doesn’t give me much lower rates. No chargeable accidents ever, one ticket for nine over in ’77 or ’78, one warning for inattentive driving in ’86 or ’87. Mind you, I’m not claiming this is all because of my stellar driving, lady luck certainly played a significant part. Amusingly, I got stopped for 15 over a few years ago (a ridiculous 35 zone on a major road, no one goes 35 there), the cop looked up my record and decided not to ticket me — I guess he didn’t want to mess up such a great record…

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          Credit score is a poor indicator of other things other than your payment history. And even then, there are plenty of reasons why a good score gets trashed – you lose your job to outsourcing for example.

          I had my home owner’s rates explode and the company had to send to me (because my state laws demand it) the information why. My “insurance score” was considered “poor”. The insurance score is dictated primarily by credit score. My FICO was 800 on the dot. If that is poor score what is a good score? I dumped General Casualty for an immediate reduction of 50% on my rates. The industry will scam you if you are not careful.

  • avatar
    craiger

    “The automaker said rates could even be affected by the number of times a driver yanks on the emergency brake.”

    A GM representative said “emergency brake?” And how do you “yank on” the parking brake in a modern car?

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    I haven’t filed a claim in decades despite driving hundreds of thousands of miles. Now if my risk was 80% than average and giving up my privacy meant a 80% drop in premiums (or even 70%), I’d think about out it, especially as I’m driving a lot less nowadays.

    But we all know that won’t happen. The insurance cos will pocket a big chunk of YOUR safe driver savings and OnStar gets a nice referral fee.

    nice racket if you can get it.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Zen Moment: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

    *Some* of my fellow drivers are generating a lot of brake dust in town but not really getting down the road that quickly. (We were sitting beside each other back there. How am I two lights ahead now and I wasn’t on my brakes?)

    Out on the ‘open road’ – if you are standing on your brakes on a regular basis in the left lane, you aren’t thinking ahead too much.

    [Disclaimer: I have an torque pedal and I know how to use it and I’m not the guy sitting in the left lane with no one ahead – if I’m over here I’m actively passing. And I’ll even apply some extra torques to slide up and over out of your way – just as soon as the Ford/Hyundai/Not-Too-Clued-In-Semi-Driver/Other which is blocking us both gets over.]

    I’m sorry you got a late start today and I’m sorry you are forced to share the road with other humans and I’m sorry your parents liked your sister better. Crushing the accelerator and brake every 3 seconds doesn’t seem to be helping your day – may I suggest reading the road?

    [Related: On a long trip I generally choose the speed I want to go and mostly stick to it, passing as appropriate and (fairly aggressively) staying out of peoples’ way who are driving faster. I avoid ‘packs’ and I like my space. I have an overblown/irrational (maybe?) fear of what is going to happen when “adaptive cruise control” pen rates hit about 30% – because I really don’t need (phone-bound) zombies trailing me in the right-hand lane.]

  • avatar
    JD-Shifty

    I drive a 96 S-10 with 518k on it. Insurance for PLPD is 63 dollars for six months

  • avatar
    JimC2

    You guys might be thinking about this the wrong way.

    Odds are they this wünder tattletale is going to be packaged with other safety nannies such as “intelligent” auto braking. Now I’m not going to tell you to aggressively brake check 2022 and newer upmarket GM vehicles that you see doing the speed limit +0/-10 in the left lane, but I bet if you cut in front closely (but *safely* closely) then it’ll set off the adaptive cruise radar and trigger an aggressive deceleration event, which may drive up their insurance rates if it happens enough times.

    Together we are strong!

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